In an interview with Al Majalla, Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spoke about recent tensions east of the Euphrates and says there is “clear coordination” between Damascus and Tehran aimed at supporting Arab tribes which revolted against the administration earlier this month.
He says that Turkey also seems to be contributing to this effort by involving Turkish-backed groups with the tribal uprising. However, despite efforts by Syria, Iran and Turkey, he says the uprising has been quelled and the situation is now under control.
On its part, Russia has clamped down on armed factions posing as tribes, because Moscow doesn't support Turkey's efforts to exploit the situation to further expand its control in the region. The SDF had asked for Russian help to mediate a political solution to the escalating crisis.
He clarified that the United States had not actively participated in military operations against the tribes, as the SDF did not require extensive US assistance apart from air support (reconnaissance) in their operation to restore order.
Regarding the tensions between the United States and Russia in northeastern Syria, influenced by the Ukraine conflict, Abdi asserted that these tensions were currently at a minimum or, in his words, "controlled." He expressed the SDF's desire to prevent eastern Syria from becoming a battleground for international and regional competition.
Abdi expressed willingness to negotiate with Damascus. Still, he highlighted that the necessary conditions for such talks had not yet materialised.
He described Damascus as stubborn and said the regime continuously rejects sensible proposals that can lead to peace and stability.
Abdi defending the SDF, calling it a professional and patriotic force advocating for its integration into the Syrian army and the regulation of its role and activities through official institutions.
He said there was no plan to dissolve the SDF and calls for the forces' dissolution make reaching a political solution even more difficult.
He praised the "self-administration" model while defending residents' right to shape their local policies and independently elect their representatives without external interference. This model ensures that Kurds living in these areas are not excluded and marginalised as in the past.
Below are excerpts from the interview conducted on 23 September, 2023.
What is the situation on the ground currently following the tensions earlier this month?
First, it is important to make clear that the recent tension took place in a small area, specifically five villages in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor. The situation is now stable, and we are working to restore services and address the people's demands and problems. We have promised to do so and are determined to remedy all the causes that led to the tensions.